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Anchorage suspends paper bag fee amid coronavirus emergency

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The Municipality of Anchorage announced Wednesday evening that it is suspending the 10-cent fee for paper bags at Anchorage grocery stores. Plastic bags are still banned.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz suspended the ordinance under his fourth emergency order during the coronavirus pandemic. The suspension is effective immediately, and will remain in effect through the emergency period, set to expire on April 14 at 10 p.m.

The announcement came on the same night as the state announced 17 new cases of the virus, with 11 in the municipality’s jurisdiction. The number of confirmed cases in the municipality is now 28.

The city’s plastic bag ban went into effect in September as a way to reduce litter and the use of disposable plastic. As part of the ordinance, retailers are required to charge a 10-cent fee per bag for disposable paper bags, with a maximum of 50 cents per transaction.

The goal of the ordinance was to encourage people to bring reusable bags to the store.

Three Bears Alaska — which has a location in Chugiak, as well as several in Mat-Su and other communities — recently said that they would no longer allow reusable bags at their stores due to health concerns. Carolyn Hall, spokeswoman for the mayor, said she is not aware of any other stores violating the policy before it was suspended.

The city’s statement announcing the emergency order said it is harder to use reusable bags for things like curbside pickup, a service being more heavily utilized during the pandemic.

Maine and New Hampshire recently announced changes to their disposable bag policies in light of the spreading virus.